Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick Her Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our mods, Jessica Grammer, for our next ‘Pick His/Her Brain’ session and I want to thank her for the participation.

Jessica is currently a senior advisor to FedEx.

She has provided SEO consulting for Wunderman Thompson clients for 6 years covering industries such as health insurance, life insurance, hospitals, finance, feminine care, etc.

She has also worked with various well-known brands including Lexus, National Civil Rights Museum, and other various brands.

Please feel free to pick her brain on SEO and enterprise SEO strategies.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until she asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s successes and strategies.

3) Please do not PM her and bother her. If you have a private question, ask for her permission on this thread when appropriate.

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Table of Contents

How much of FedEx SEO work is outsourced vs. in-house?

As you could imagine, we are a global company, which means we are very busy.

My immediate SEO team focuses on the US Side. Though, I would say SEO work is about 60:40 in-house and outsourced.

Are you a content or links person? What’s your importance ratio?

I, personally, am a content/SEO strategy person.

Though very much value and appreciate the work of earning links.

I am going to say that quality content and answered user intent ranks over links.

Though both are essential.

Does FedEx get pitched by boutique independent contractors?

We get a fair amount of pitches.

Can’t say that I have gotten a lot of independent pitches though.

They may also be blocked in our email.

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How important is long-tail for bigger brands?

Targeting long-tail keywords is just as important to inculde in a strategy as they provide more clear insight into user intent.

Thus, it allows us to provide a better user experience for our customers/target audience.

Semantics and user intent is a large part of our strategy.

What’s your view of correlation tools such as POP or Surfer? Are you using any?

Correlation tools that provide insight into your topics competitive search landscape, natural language processing, semantic keywords, content structure, top questions, etc. can save you A LOT of time.

I mean A LOT OF time. Plus, some of the tools make it easier for you to provide content writers the strategy, scope, and structure.

This reduces the many rounds of revisions and tracks the progress towards meeting the requirements.

Just note that with any tool, you need to understand the topic and experience and shouldn’t fully rely on them to rank.

You need to continuously monitor and enhance your pages based on search landscape/market.

What SEO tools are used by FedEx?

Ahrefs, Surfer SEO, Botfiy, Screaming Frog, Content King.

Have you tried Cora/pop and if so, what was the reason for sticking with Surfer?

I have not tried either of those.

So main reason is because Surfer was pitched to me.

I’m all ears though.

What’s the main KPI used by FedEx for SEO?

There is no main KPI as we have several journeys and experiences that we manage.

Tracking, Shipping, Printing, etc.

Though for knowledge share, it’s good to track the entire customers journey from awareness to retention.

Doing so really helps us understand where there is opportunity to improve the customers experience.

Do you feel that female SEOs are treated differently than male counterparts?

I hold my own as do most female SEOs.

We’re badasses!

But in general, there are typically more males in the SEO field than females.

I don’t personally feel I am treated differently.

What’s your marketing philosophy?

Focus on understanding your customers needs and developing products, services, and solutions to meet those needs.

What’s your definition of authority?

Authority is having a true understanding of a topic and having the respect.

And trust from others that agree with or vouch for your understanding of that said topic.

What are the top 3 mistakes SEOs make?

Just three?

1. Lacking content governance (when you lose control of who is developing content.

how much content is beign developed, and how that content maps back to a defined user journey/priority landing page).

Then things get out of control. It results in a lot of saturated and duplicated content.

Which results in a lot of future clean up, redirects, canonical tagging, etc.

You cannibilize your own work, create a poor UX, cause confusion for search engines, etc.

2. Similar to the above, Focusing on Quantity over Quality.

This is applicable to acquiring backlinks, content length, content pages, etc.

Point blank, do your research on the topic, know your customers intent, build an experience that answers that experience…

If you can answer that intent in 100 characters great, if not, go the distance!

3. A one-and-done approach.

Our current environment is an excellent example of why this is a mistake.

Often times, people will find an opportunity, create content, optimize for search/users, answer user intent, grow credible backlinks… rank well… and then stop.

The search landscape is ever changing, as is the way that we engage with content (mobile, ecommerce, apps, tools, etc.).

There are a number of competitive tools that give us insight into “why” someone is winning and your competitiors are leveraging your hard work to raise their rankings, too.

Always be on your game.

What are your thoughts on covid-19 having an impact in our SEO industry?

I think COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the SEO industry.

Bottom line, covid-19 has resulted in a lot of “uncertainty”.

When you have uncertainty, people seek for answers. And most of us SEOs know that 90% of online experiences start with search.

This is relevant in about every market.

To be successful during these times of uncertainty, it’s vital to understand the “needs” of your customers/prospects and develop answers that best addresses there moment of uncertainty.

Keep it relevant to your business to maintain authority and relevancy.

May it be updating your local/social listings to address business hour changes, or creating content that instructs customers.

How to safely handle packages, inform people on how they can support your business, curbside delivery, how to sell products online.

How you can get financial assistance, how to workout at home, did Carol kill her husband.

What’s your favorite SEO activity?

Search Tech Audts/Discoveries. A fun known fact… I went to school for criminal science investigations…

So I love drilling down into why something is wrong, identifying content gaps, or identifying why something is performing well.

Do you feel that FedEx has an unlimited budget toward SEO or are they cautious toward marketing budget?

Not the case at all.

We’re very very cautious.

What’s in your SEO toolbox? What’s on your SEO must-read blog/group list?

Shout out to this group SEO Signals Lab

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I am a huge nerd, so I subscribe to a lot of SEOs on Twitter/LinkedIn….

I also find a lot of value from peer-to-peer straight talk.

Our practice is continously changing and I need y’all to stay up to date on changes.

How much attn do you pay to what UPS does for SEO?

Who is UPS? If you’re not looking at your competitors, then you’re doing it wrong.

As you’ll see in my “marketing philosophy” above, it’s important to know your customers needs and often times, your competitors have rightfully developed content to address there needs.

Pro Tip: Use a tool that provides insight into the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, conduct a content gap analysis.

Here’s a very robust article that will show you some quick wins: https://ahrefs.com/academy/marketing-ahrefs/lesson-2-5

What have you found to be the most impactful as you work on sites as large as FedEx? (i.e. Content, site architecture, technical, linkbuilding?)

Content governance.

You can enter a war zone if there is no governance on who is creating content.

The quality of that content, and how it fits into the overall strategy of the site.

You need a team looking out for the customer experience.

Make sure SEO is on that content governance!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned going in-house that would have helped you when you were agency-side?

The biggest learning I have adopted from the agency side was always be prepared to provide insights/data, actions, and impact of what you are recommending.

Having this methodology will save time, money, and wasted arguments.

This is imperative if you are presenting to a corporate.

Why am I investing and what’s in it for me/my company/my customers??

How does the in-house experience compare to agency life?

Good question, In-house can be slower. You really have to work for the buy in amongst several teams.

Content, Go-to-Market, IT, Web, App Support, Brand, Legal…

That’s why it’s important to have a content governance with as many of those stakeholdrs to alleviate back-and-forth.

Share common knowledge, streamline approvals, etc.

What is the strategy to get healthy insurance lead? And strategy to rank in health insurance niche?

If you’re the health insurance company, lower your prices. people are searching by cost.

Also have a strong presence in that community.

If you’re the Seo, then make sure you have tools that allow you to find the best insurance for your needs.

Include cost/coverage, and make sure you get links back from community presence and efforts.

What tools could you not do without? And as a part two, what tools do you love that makes working on sites as large as FedEx more manageable?

Oooooh…. I use Ahrefs on the daily. Mainly use it of crawling/auditing/competititive analysis.

Part 2: Tools that let me know when someone goes rogue and creates a page/makes a content edit (like Content King) are a life saver.

Also Surfer (correlation tools) helps me save time on the grunt work of natural language processing/keyword semantics.

Better yet – I love that it gives you examples of mentions.

Because often I’ll think… how in the hell am I going to use this keyword/phrase?

Matt Diggity has a good overview of how to get the best out of the tool https://diggitymarketing.com/surfer-seo-guide/

What keeps you awake at night so to speak in terms of next google update or algorithms changes? And how do you manage to get a ahead of this constant catch up games?

I’m going to be honest and tell you that I try to prioritize understanding user journeys/user intent for our products and services.

Pray that its on par with the algorithm updates.

If you are focusing on creating a legit quality experience for your customers and leveraging learnings from competitors gains, then you should be good.

What keeps me up at night is actually getting said experiences implemented quickly.

That’s why it’s important to streamline your content creation/optimization process if you are working with several stakeholders/roadblocks.

Also… I need more time to do the above.

What’s your SEO audit process for a site as big as FedEx? How much time and effort do you spend on acquiring backlinks, since you seem to be pretty content focused?

Great question.

Audit process requires powerful tools that can crawl a site like fedex.com. We have ~300 locales across the globe.

Fortunately, My scope is to focus on the US side, but I still need to understand global health as it impacts the US-side and domain(s) in general
I have an SEO checklist that I use and I cross check it with the crawl.

I filter those criterias column by column as defined in csv document.

I find it easier to color code items that do not pass and when I am done, I then organize pages by tagged experiences/directories.

It allows me to see a heat map/health radar of pages/directories.

There are a lot of tools that will automate audits.

Thank goodness! I like to get in the weeds and do a manual audit of sorts when first working on a project/client up front.

Re: Linkbuilding: While I don’t spend a lot of time on backlink outreach.

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I have spent a good amount of time developing a linkbuilding/link health strategy.

This includes educating stakeholders like our social/pr/communication/sponsorship teams on the importance of connecting vistors directly to valuable content.

It also includes link reclaiming, addressing broken links, intenal linking strategy, etc.

On the agency side, what did you find were the biggest keys to client retention? What about the best tips for closing new clients?

Great question!

TEACH ‘EM: It’s so important to educate your client (seo can be confusing).

When a client can understand your recommendation, he/she can better communicate/advocate for your work.

You won’t always be in the room when they are pushing to get your recommendations implemented.

If your results can’t get implemented, you can’t drive results.

If you don’t drive results, you can’t fully show your value.

Always follow this process: Insights, Action, Impact.

Show them the data in every recommendation.

It builds trust and reduces friction/assumption-based decisions.

Show them what you are going to do and by doing it… what is the impact to the business.

Keep it aligned with your businesses KPIs, Goals.

If you don’t know their KPIs or Goals… that is your first task.

Do you use blogroll/sticky link to optimization seo ur site? when use, what’s the impacts now? when not, what’s the best backlink for ur site? using a anchor text keyword, brand, or naked url?

Can’t say that I do.

What is your top SEO tips for a website that has a hard time ranking on organic search result?

Great question!

I would first start with understanding the user journey and user intent.

Then do some keyword/topic research to understand how people are searching for and engaging with topic. Group those keywords by experiences.

Find your priority keywords, then do competitor research to see the top sites ranking for that keyword. document the experience, layout, site speed, technical setup, content.

And take those learnings to integrate into your site.

Often times, your competitors aren’t even getting it right so there’s a good chance you can make the experience even better.

Long story short… put yourself in your customers shoes and build an experience that would answer all of those needs.

Always make easier for them to make the next step in their journey.

How did you get your start in SEO and how long have you been doing it? Just wondering where you came from to working with a huge, well-known brand like FedEx.

My favorite question!

I got my start right out of college. I studied PR/Marketing/Journalism.

I was fortunate to be a founding social media user for businesses.

Our professor made us set up a twitter account to tell the news.

This then translated into how we could use the tool to amplify business offerings and further connect with target audiences.

The economy was poor, and it was difficult to find a job… so I started my own business helping others grow their business through social media.

That transformed into content/social/SEO. I got to help a lot of small businesses and non-profits.

It required a lot of self teaching bc this was so new and businesses relied on your expertise.

When I joined agency life, it really made me reduce my focus to SEO and content strategy.

Shoutout to Wunderman Thompson digital marketing agency for teaching me about performance marketing.

Grant Oster David Stein lead SEO there now and are badasses!

I was there for 6 years and then joined FedEx 2 years ago.

Do you have an in-house team to create and optimize your web content? Or do you outsource it to a trusted source? What is the process you use to produce content for FedEx?

Yes, we have an awesome in-house team that develops, optimizes, and nurtures content.

We value our external sources who, too, help with the above.

Process starts with data, recommendations, and proven value of rec.

It then gets routes to a number of stakeholders and governance for approval prior to time spent on developing.

With FedEx having such a high brand authority, does it still requires a consistent backlink strategy that you and your team works on? If yes, then what is your strategy for acquiring backlinks, if no, then why?

Honestly… no it doesn’t.

Though…. We do need to be mindful of those high authority sites linking back to the home page (or the wrong PLPs/locales).

Ideally, we’d have high quality sites linking to deeper more, relevant pages. That’s the struggle.

Does the fact that i currently use a plugin to implement my seo hindering my seo performance at all? and if not, is it hindering my marketability as an seo professional?

I would never fully rely on a tool to help you gain rankings.

Though many, like Yoast, are helpful! If I can recall, Yoast does not provide strategy on a topic, inform content semantics, inform user intent, etc.

I recommend do the grunt work to understand your niche, your topic, and focus in creating the best experience that provides value and answer user intent for your target audience.